Lofts allow apartment and condominium dwellers to have light, open spaces that reduce the feeling of being closed in by neighbors. Lofts provide more than just a little extra room; they are based on old industrial buildings that had very tall ceilings to accommodate equipment and ductwork. They may also have a second level that provides additional living space. Since the definition of loft can change depending on whom you're talking to or how old the loft space is, you have to check with your town or county's building or planning department if you're planning to build or remodel your home to include a loft area to find out if there is a required height for the inside of the loft.
The word "loft" actually describes a range of structures, and the basic definition varies between countries as well. In the United States, a loft can be anything from a wide-open apartment that used to be an industrial zone to a simple condominium where the sleeping area is an open platform located approximately where a second floor might be. The term has evolved to include apartments that do not have these industrial backgrounds but that are just as open and airy looking. In the United Kingdom, a loft is essentially an attic room.
Many condominiums have a very tall, open front foyer or living room with vaulted ceilings that spans a height equivalent to two stories. In an effort to use some of the space in a more practical manner than just for looks, a builder can install a loft that functions as an office or bedroom. The loft may also be for storage only. Height regulations, again, will vary between areas, but as an example, Thomas Dolan Architecture notes the regulation for Oakland, California, requires lofts meant for sleeping to be at least 7 feet up and have an additional 7 feet above.
Another type of loft is the former factory converted into a living space with huge windows, no walls separating any of the rooms, except the bathroom, and possibly visible pipes and ducts. No official nationwide regulation exists regarding how high the ceiling must be, but Uptown on Columbia notes sometimes 12 feet is considered the minimum height for a loft ceiling, or it is "just a condo with high ceilings." Loftway claims a loft must have 16-foot ceilings.
UK Loft Conversion Regulations
Having a loft, or attic, available to you in the U.K. is fairly common. Loft conversions are one way to increase the amount of livable space you have in an otherwise cramped situation such as a small terraced home, which is similar to what is called a rowhouse in the United States. Like in the United States, regulations in the U.K. will vary between regions. One sample requirement comes from the Local Authority Building Control in Swansea, Wales, which notes that the height inside the staircase leading up to the loft must be 2 meters, or about 6.5 feet, from the tip of each step to the ceiling, though exceptions do exist. The Absolute Lofts company in England recommends having at least 2.2 meters, or a little over 7 feet, as the interior height for converted lofts from ridgeboard to ceiling joist. Note that while planning laws tend to lump England and Wales into one unit, the specific laws in each can vary. If you are not sure where to start, contact your council.